PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte revealed Friday that China had warned him that it is prepared for war if the Philippines upholds its sovereignty over the disputed territories in the South China Sea.
Duterte said the Chinese government made the warning after he raised the issue of sovereignty and ownership on the resource-rich waters.
He said Chinese President Xi Jinping might be forced to declare war with the Philippines if he insists the Permanent Court of Arbitration's decision declaring China's invalid claims to the South China Sea.
He said he had informed Xi of his plans to extract oil in the contested waters but the latter asked him not to proceed. He, however, made no mention as to when and where it happened.
"I really told [Xi] face-to-face: 'That (South China Sea) is ours and we intend to drill oil there.' I did not hesitate to say that," the Chief Executive said in a speech he delivered at the Philippine Coast Guard’s event in Davao City.
"The reply [of Xi] was, 'Well, we are friends. We do not want to quarrel with you. We would want to maintain the present warm relationship. But if you force the issue, we will go to war,'" he added.
This was the first time Duterte said he raised the arbitral award favoring his administration to the Chinese government, despite his earlier statement that he would avoid to bring up the The Hague ruling to soften ties with China.
Duterte's pronouncement coincided with the first bilateral meeting between the Philippine and Chinese government in China to discuss the maritime dispute. Both countries conducted a bilateral consultative mechanism to resolve the issues hounding the South China Sea.
Duterte recently went to China and held a bilateral and restrictive meeting with Xi at the sidelines of the One Belt, One Road Forum. When he arrived in Davao City on Tuesday, he did not mention that he raised the Hague-based ruling with Xi.
The President admitted that his government is not yet ready to be engaged in a fight with China because it will only lead to a chaos.
"If it were me, why would I do that? It will result in a massacre and it will just destroy everything," he said. (SunStar Philippines)